From Iceland — News In Brief: Eurovision, Capital Controls and the Sigmundur Davíð-Donald Collusion

News In Brief: Eurovision, Capital Controls and the Sigmundur Davíð-Donald Collusion

Published March 24, 2017

The top story of the past two weeks is without a doubt the lifting of the last of the capital controls that Iceland put in place in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. The move does not actually make much difference to the average Icelander; rather, it makes things a whole lot easier for people who want to invest in Iceland, and Icelandic investors who want to move their money overseas. The króna has been hanging in there so far, but the long-term effects still remain to be seen.

It’s Eurovision season again, and this year the controversy started on the very first night of the Icelandic selection show, when it was brought to light that the outfit worn by host Ragnhildur Steinunn Jónsdóttir was strikingly similar to a jumpsuit designed by Balmain. The Icelandic Design Centre was quick to point out the similarities, and condemned national broadcasters RÚV for “not respecting design work,” but RÚV seamstress Elma Bjarney Guðmundsdóttir responded that the Balmain jumpsuit merely “inspired” Ragnhildur’s outfit. All’s fair in love and clothing design, apparently.

In a material universe, all things are connected—even mobile phone reception and volcano safety. It was recently found that mobile phone reception in the area around the Katla volcano is decidedly poor. This could spell trouble for people living in the area, as evacuation alerts in the event of an eruption are typically sent out by text message. Authorities are currently working on a solution, so hopefully we won’t have to resort to sending someone galloping through the area on horseback and blasting a trumpet in the event Katla decides to erupt.

Yes, we jailed some bankers. But financial justice doesn’t end there, as Reykjavík District Court recently levied a 5.2 billion ISK fine on the Wernersson brothers, who once owned the now-bankrupt investment firm Milestone, for fraudulent activity in the days before the crash. The judgement will surely serve as an example to other bankers in Iceland, who will likely never, ever do anything illegal ever again.

You might think that Iceland is a “green country,” in the sense of being environmentally friendly. If so, it might come as a surprise to you that smog in Reykjavík has become a real problem that we have to contend with. The source of the smog, as in other parts of the world, is car traffic. Icelanders love their cars, and increasing numbers of tourists renting cars adds to the national fleet. Combine that with any stretch of still winds and you get the kind of yellow-brown haze hanging over the city that you can find to a greater degree in other world cities. Car owners, though, will be delighted to learn this health hazard will not mean any new restrictions on their freedom to pollute.

Donald “The leaks are real; the news is fake” Trump has his work cut out for him, as former Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson upped the fake news ante when he declared that the infamous television interview he walked out on when questioned about his offshore accounts was “complete staged” from beginning to end. The core of his criticism was that he was deliberately caught off guard by tough questions, for which he was completely unprepared, effectively blaming the interviewers for his defensive behaviour and his storming out in a huff. Those crafty journalists!

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